Mr Pip: Blu Ray Review
Released by Universal Home Ent
Based on Lloyd Jones' seminal novel, the film adaptation of Mr Pip arrives on the screen withGreat Expectations heaped upon it.
Set against the backdrop of civil war in Bougainville as power struggle for the copper mines manifests itself, it's the story of young Mathilda (Xzannjah) who lives on the island. When all the whites abandon the island to ensure their safety, one stays behind.
That is the enigmatic Mr Watts (Hugh Laurie) who decides to take on the tutelage of the children by reading to them Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. For Mathilda, it's a revelation, a chance to find sanctuary in the world of Pip and her own imagination. But Watts' plan to fire up the children's imaginations brings him into conflict with some of the parents.
However, they find they all have to put their differences aside when the civil war comes abruptly and violently into their village.
Mr Pip is a surprisingly powerful piece given its rather small scale intimate feel.
Laurie, replete in crumpled white suit, brings a low-key nuanced presence and haunting subtle sadness to the last remaining white man on the island, trying to inspire the children and distract them from the horrors knocking at their very doorstep. There's a distracted melancholy to his performance which is only lifted when he brings some comic overtones to the acting out of Dickens' world.
First time actress Xzannjah also has a wide-eyed innocence to Mathilda, whose solace in her imaginary world with Pip is a stark contrast to the world around her. Thanks to bright, visually bold colourful costuming of Pip's world, the difference couldn't be more pointed or striking as the maudlin tone plays out. The first half of the film feels almost light, choppy and jaunty as the kids and the village adjust to Watts' ways and the community starts to fracture (and ultimately heal itself) amid the world around it.
And mark my words, Mr Pip packs a power that is hard to deny - and even harder not to be moved or horrified with as the realities and atrocities of civil war come painfully to Mathilda and Mr Watts' world. It's mournful to say the least and the wailing and gnashing which follows one incident is haunting, evocative and heart-in-mouth horrifying - despite somehow managing to be moving.
But it's the ending of Mr Pip which impresses - there's a dignified power, emotional punch and rich resonance offered by the dénouement which will move you more than you'd expect. Amid the harrowing and horrific, director Andrew Adamson has crafted something which has a quiet dignity and a way of creeping up on you, gnawing at your soul long after you've turned it off